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Charter Arms “Professional” 357 Magnum / 38 Special 6-Shot Double-Action Revolver

Charter Arms was founded in 1964, in New England’s famed “Gun Valley”, by Douglas McClennahan. McClennahan had previously worked for such storied companies as Colt, High Standard, and Ruger, but it was his dream to start his own company and offer high-quality, reliable revolvers at affordable prices. McClennahan’s design yielded Charter Arms’ first product, the “Undercover” five-shot 38 Special revolver, which was the smallest, lightest (at only 16 ounces) steel-framed revolver made, and featured the fewest moving parts for a simple and reliable lock system. McClennahan’s design also featured a solid frame, rather than the familiar removable-sideplate design, thereby increasing strength without sacrificing the revolver’s small size; another Charter Arms innovation was their patented “hammer block” safety system, which has commonly become known as the “transfer bar” system, and is widely used today by many manufacturers. McClennahan’s friend and fellow craftsman David Ecker became a 50/50 partner in 1967; since that time, Charter Arms has offered a great many wonderful revolvers, from the original 5-shot 38 Specials like the “Undercover” and the “Off Duty”, to the handy little 22 “Pathfinder” series, and Charter Arms’ most famous (and infamous) offering, the wonderful “Bulldog” 44 Special models. I personally own many Charter Arms revolvers, and have for over 40 years; my brother Jeff was also a great fan of the Charter Arms revolvers, and during his brief Law Enforcement career, he trusted his life to the Charter Arms Undercover 38 that rode inside his boot. The Ecker family remains in control of the company today, taking advantage of the latest technological advancements to build upon the vision of Doug McClennahan and David Ecker, offering better revolvers than ever while holding the line on prices.

Charter Arms’ centerfire revolvers have typically been offered in two frame sizes: the original small-frame 5-shot 38 Special models (along with the 5-shot 357 Magnum “Bulldog Pug”), and the slightly larger 5-shot 44 Special “Bulldog” models. A few years ago, Charter began offering a third frame size, slightly larger than the 44 Bulldog frame, with their introduction of the 5-shot “Pit Bull” in 45 ACP. Charter Arms is now taking this slightly larger frame size in a new direction with their “Professional” 6-shot 357 Magnum revolver.

Charter Arms “Professional” 357 Magnum / 38 Special 6-Shot Double-Action Revolver

The Professional 357 Magnum offers a 20% increase in firepower over the small frame size, yet is still at least 20% smaller in size and weight than the mid-frame 357 Magnum revolvers offered by other makers, weighing in at only 22 ounces. The larger frame window allows a cylinder large enough to accommodate 6 rounds of full-power 357 Magnum loads, with plenty of steel between the chambers to accommodate them safely; the chambers are also counterbored to fully support the case heads for an extra margin of safety. The cylinder locks up to the frame in four places, at the front and the rear, increasing strength, reliability, and accuracy. Of course, 38 Special loads can also be used in the Professional 357 Magnum, making the Professional 357 Magnum versatile enough to handle anything from light 38 Special target loads, to 38 Special +P loads, to 357 Magnum loads. Because of this, the Professional 357 is equally at home in the back yard, the target range, the “mean streets”, and even the hunting field where allowed by regulations.

Charter “Professional” 357 Magnum (top) compared to Charter “Off Duty” 38 Special (bottom)

The Professional 357 Magnum is both Double-Action and Single-Action in operation, and is constructed from 100% stainless steel, with a Black Nitride+™ finish; this applied finish is very attractive, offering an even, matte black, businesslike appearance.

Cylinder is slightly larger than smaller Charter models, allowing six-round capacity

The barrel is a one-piece unit, 4.2 inches in length, and features a full underlug which encloses and protects the ejector rod, but is relieved for weight savings. This gives a slight muzzle-heavy balance which I find to be perfect: heavy enough to mitigate recoil and muzzle flip, while not too heavy to carry comfortably. The barrel features eight shallow grooves, rather than six deeper grooves, theoretically increasing both velocity and accuracy while decreasing the tendency for lead and copper fouling to accumulate.

4.2″ barrel features a weight-relieved full underlug

The sights are very nice, consisting of a front sight base that is integrally milled with the barrel rib. The front sight blade contains a green LitePipe™ fiber optic tube, which does a great job of picking-up ambient light, and is easy and quick to acquire in a wide variety of lighting conditions. The rear sight is fully adjustable for windage and elevation, as it should be for a revolver that can send such a wide variety of bullet types and weights to equally wide points of impact.

Green LitePipe™ fiber-optic front sight with adjustable rear sights

The trigger is a smooth “combat style”, while the hammer’s spur is positively grooved for a non-slip purchase when firing in Single-Action mode. The trigger pull was better than expected, with a Double-Action pull averaging just over 10 pounds, and a Single-Action pull averaging just under 3 pounds. Both Double-Action and Single-Action pulls are smooth and creep-free. Very nice.

The Professional 357 features a “short stroke” Double-Action. When manually cocking the hammer for firing Single-Action, the hammer pulls all the way back against the top of the grip frame, but when self-cocking the hammer in Double-Action mode, the hammer releases about two-thirds of the way back, decreasing lock time accordingly. This increases both speed and accuracy in Double-Action mode, but there is a trade-off: the correspondingly-decreased inertia of the hammer may fail to consistently ignite the harder primers that are sometimes used with Magnum ammunition, resulting in misfires. I did experience this using some Magnum ammunition in Double-Action mode; it is worth noting that I never experienced a single misfire when firing in the full-stroke Single-Action mode. Not all ammunition makers use the harder primers, but it is worth noting because, especially when used for self-defense, it is imperative that a sidearm operates with 100% reliability using one’s chosen ammunition. This could be solved by use of stiffer springs, but that would defeat the purpose of having a shorter hammer throw and a light, smooth trigger in the first place. The best way to handle this is something we should always do anyway, especially before carrying any sidearm for Social Work: ALWAYS make sure that the chosen load operates 100% reliably, every time.

Charter Arms’ patented Transfer Bar Safety System

The grips are a cut above the effective but unattractive rubber grips usually seen on Charter Arms revolvers. Carved from smooth-finished walnut, the Professional grips feature a subtle thumb rest on either side, as well a rounded taper, generous palm swells, and finger grooves. They offer a really comfortable, repeatable purchase for the hand; it is important, especially for a defensive sidearm, that the grip design allows the shooter’s hand to immediately find a consistent position, and these grips work perfectly for that. I suppose no grip is just right for everyone, but these grips feel wonderful in my rather large hands, and my Bride, whose hands are very small, remarked as to how well they felt in her hand. In the unlikely event that a shooter finds the factory grips less than perfect, replacement grips of many designs are available from a wide variety of sources, including Charter Arms’ Online Store.

Comfortable and effective smooth-finished wood grips are tapered with finger grooves

Shooting the Professional 357 Magnum was a pleasure, aside from several aforementioned misfires when firing Double-Action. Using remanufactured 38 Special ammo from The American Marksman, roundnose lead 38 Special ammo from Magtech and American Eagle, as well as some of my favorite 38 Special and 357 Magnum loads from Double Tap Ammo, the little Charter proved to be more than equal to the task, accurately and reliably placing bullets where I wanted them to go. Standing offhand at five yards, placing six shots into groups ranging from 1 inch to 2 inches was an easy accomplishment, using a variety of ammunition types.

Boge shoots the Charter Arms Professional 357 Magnum

With the Professional 357 Magnum, Charter Arms has introduced a more versatile and refined version of their earlier revolvers. The slightly larger size allows a six-round payload of the more powerful 357 Magnum loads, in a package that is still substantially smaller and lighter than its competition; the adjustable sights make full use of the versatility afforded by the use of both 38 Special and 357 Magnum loads, while the LitePipe™ front sight makes the sight picture quicker and easier to acquire; the Black Nitride+™ finish is both attractive and utilitarian; and the walnut finger-groove grips make “gun control” finally make sense. At a current MSRP of $567.00, the Charter Arms Professional 357 Magnum deserves serious consideration.

Specifications – Charter Arms “Professional” 357 Magnum / 38 Special 6-Shot Double-Action Revolver

Model: 63546

Action: Double Action / Single Action

Caliber: 357 Magnum / 38 Special

Cylinder Capacity: 6 Shots

Frame: Stainless Steel, Black Nitride+™ Finish

Cylinder: Stainless Steel, Black Nitride+™ Finish

Barrel: Stainless Steel, 4.2 Inches, Full Underlug, Black Nitride+™ Finish

Overall Length: 7.8125 Inches

Weight, Unloaded: 22 Ounces

Front Sight: Green LitePipe™ Fiber Optic

Rear Sight: Fully Adjustable

Grips Smooth Walnut, Finger-Grooved

Trigger Pull, DA: 10 Lbs, 3.1 Oz

Trigger Pull, SA: 2 Lbs, 15.1 Oz

Accessories Included: Lockable Plastic Case, Manual, Trigger Lock

MSRP as of February 2024: $567.00 US

To Find a Charter Arms Dealer Near You, Click on the DEALER FINDER at Lipsey’s: www.lipseys.com/dealerfinder

About the Author:

Boge Quinn is a life-long shooter, born and raised in the Great State of Tennessee. A co-founder of Gunblast.com (https://gunblast.com/)in the year 2000, along with his brother Jeff Quinn, Boge has continued on with Gunblast after Jeff’s passing in 2020. A Lifetime Endowment member of the NRA, Boge serves on the Board of Directors of The Shootists (https://shootists.org/), an organization started by John Taffin in 1985, as did his brother Jeff. Boge appreciates firearms of all types, but his soul is particularly stirred by the “older style” guns: lever-action and single-shot rifles, along with Single-Action and Double-Action revolvers and 1911-style pistols. As a former professional artist, Boge appreciates the aesthetics of a fine gun, as well as its mechanical precision and practical application. His particular affinity lies in the world of handguns, and he has hunted mostly with handguns of all types since the mid-1970s. A regionally well-known musician, Boge is also a Deacon in the same Baptist Church where his brother Jeff formerly served as Deacon, and where their Dad finished his 50-year career as Pastor.